Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 22, 2010

Garrett, Systematic Theology, part 6: “Man and Sin”

James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols. (North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL Press, 2000), 449-604.

Garrett fails to specify his view of the image of God in man, but does see as an implication from that doctrine the idea that humans are religious beings, valuable to God (“worth saving,” not “worthy of salvation” (1:466)), and is dissatisfied with reductionist views of humankind such as Marxism, Freudian psychology, racism, etc. In evaluating current anthropological and geological claims, he seems to reject a four- to ten-thousand-year-old earth, preferring to hope for a future harmonization of early Genesis and anthropological findings.

Because all human beings are ultimately of the same descent and made in the image of God, racism is to be rejected. Further, in discussing the creation of humankind as male and female, Garrett avers that monogamous marriage is the biblical pattern, and so adultery, homosexuality, and polygamy are to be rejected. The single state (while valid) is not to be considered above or below marriage, although Garrett specifically refutes the idea of mandatory celibacy for clergy. Regarding the question of wifely submission, Garrett agrees with the view of Barth, who “affirmed that women are both structurally and functionally different from men but sought to retain an aspect of wifely subordination on the basis that such subordination, being unique, is primarily to the Lord Jesus and only secondarily to the husband and is without any notion of female inferiority” (1:496). Divorce/remarriage is not treated.

Garrett avoids altogether the di/trichotomist debate: “the various terms applied to human beings [e.g., “soul,” “spirit,” “body”] were more like different windows through which humans could then be viewed than like pieces of a pie which has been cut” (1:506). He sees the issue of the distinct origin of the human soul (creationism vs. traducianism) as an invalid question derived from an improper Hellenistic concept of “the soul as chiefly a metaphysical entity” as opposed to the OT sense of the soul as “the life-breath of vitality within humans or the very selfhood of human beings” (1:507-8).

Sin is not merely a result of being a creature or of having a body. Garrett lists a number of concepts more or less central to the definition of sin: disobedience, covenant-breaking, rebellion, idolatry, unbelief, selfishness, and sloth. Man was created in a sinless state and subsequently fell from his sinlessness. Garrett emphasizes “Eve’s participation in the prelapsarian state, the fall, and its consequences,” going so far as to speak of an Evenic fall and depravity (1:551-52).

Sin and depravity are universal in humanity (Christ excepted). Romans 5:12-21 is seen as insufficient to settle the question of how our sin relates to the sin of Adam, and Garrett fails to specify his view, although he summarizes various positions (realism, federalism, etc.). “Temptation is the occasion for sin or the incitement to sin, but not the cause of sin,” and comes from Satan and our own lust, not from God (1:572). Man knows sin by means of the conscience, the law, and the cross. Children reach an “age of accountability” where consciousness of sin is a possibility. Sin brings consequences of alienation from God, bondage, wrath, guilt, judgment, death, hatred and injustice in society, and personal self-centeredness and self-disintegration.

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